Sunday, September 12, 2010

Shin Splints, What are They Anyway?

Anyone who runs, anyone who even exercises knows the pain called "Shin Splints". The discomfort may start at the front of the ankle joint, travel up the shin bone, and prevent foot flexion either during or after activity. You may notice tenderness, soreness, or pain along the inner part of your lower leg. But what is it and can this excruciating pain be prevented?
Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome, commonly referred to as "shin splints", is caused by "an overload on the shin bone and the connective tissues that attach the muscle to the bone." - {Mayo Clinic}

- Pain over the inside lower half of the shin
- Pain at the start of exercise yet eases as exercise increases
- Pain returns after exercise and persists oftentimes for the next 24-48 hours
- Swelling and/or sometimes redness
- Bumps might be felt along the inside of the shin bone
- Pain when the toes or foot are flexed upward - {Sports Injury Clinic}

An increase in physical activity, running/jogging, and overall exercise can lead to inflammation in the lower leg musculature. Some runners tend to pronate, roll excessively inward onto the arch, which can aggravate the tension as well. Weak ankles and a tight Achiles Tendon cause irritation in the lower leg as well.

Help, Fix It!!
RICE Method: Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate. A common therapy for most sports injuries, this simple method proves effective when connective tissues, muscles, tendons, and ligaments get inflammed.
Relative Rest Method: 
- Choose cardiovascular activities that lessen impact compared to running. i.e. bicycling and pool running
- Apply ice packs post exercise
- Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen
- Stretches isolating the calf muscle and muscles at the anterior location of the lower leg. This can be done by flexing and relaxing the ankle joint.
- Select a running shoe made for your foot shape and running style. Check out Road Runner Sports for their expert opinion and great selection.
- Be smart about where and how you run: Level, soft terrain; decrease running distance; decrease running intensity. Once pain decreases, work back up to a comfortable distance and pace.
The Tennis Ball Method: (my personal favorite!!) Simple simple simple. Sit so your leg is relaxed, releasing tension in your foot. Take a tennis ball or golf ball and begin rolling it lightly from the base of the knee down the anterior area of the lower leg, ending at the ankle joint. Continue in the reverse direction. Although this action creates discomfort, wincing, perhaps even a tear or two, the ball forces the muscles and connective tissue to relax under the pressure. By relaxing, blood flow increases along with oxygen and fluid circulation. Try this for 5-10 minutes before and after physcial activity. Follow up with ice and rest.

Remember!! If pain persists or increases, go see a professional. Most of the time shin splint pain will subside if the above suggestions are implemented. If pain shoots down into the foot or to the posterior area of the lower leg, seek medical attention!
Happy Pain- Free Running! 

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